Starling Bank will no longer be launching in Ireland

19 Jul 2022

Starling Bank CEO and founder Anne Boden. Image: Starling Bank

Former AIB executive and Starling founder Anne Boden is reportedly looking at other avenues for the fintech’s expansion.

Starling Bank has withdrawn its application for a banking licence in Ireland due to a change in its international expansion strategy, according to media reports.

The UK digital bank founded and led by former AIB chief operating officer Anne Boden had been working with the Central Bank of Ireland on its application since as early as 2018.

Boden told Starling Bank’s 2,000 employees in a memo yesterday (18 July) that the company has now decided to pursue other plans that could yield greater value.

The news was first reported by Sky News but was later confirmed to other outlets by a Starling spokesperson.

“Sometimes changing course is the right option. My job as CEO is to constantly test our thinking against evolving circumstances and to make sure that we are delivering value and maximising potential for growth,” Boden told employees, according to Sky News.

“Ultimately, we felt that an Irish subsidiary would not deliver the added value we are seeking.”

The challenger bank was founded in 2014 and started operations in the UK in 2016.

In April 2022, Starling was valued at £2.5bn after it completed a £130.5m internal fundraising round. In March of last year, it was valued at £1.1bn following a £272m Series D funding round.

Boden said back in 2017 that Starling was coming to Ireland in the first quarter of 2018. The aim was to use Ireland and a gateway to expansion in Europe. However, the plan was delayed by the pandemic.

Now that its Central Bank application has been withdrawn, Starling is eyeing expansion by rolling out its SaaS platform.

“We’ll now be focusing on taking our software to banks around the globe through our software-as-a-service subsidiary, Engine, and by expanding our lending across a range of asset classes, including through targeted M&A activity,” Boden said in the memo.

The news may be a blow to Irish consumers at a time when KBC and Ulster Bank are exiting the market.

But Synch Payments, the mobile app venture by major Irish banks to take on Revolut and N26, was recently given the green light. Emerging neobanks such as Dutch fintech Bunq have their eyes on Irish customers too.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic